Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Review: I Think I Hate Superheroes Now.
The very first review on this blog is for Zack Snyder’s ‘Man Of Steel’. In that review, I compared the development of a new ‘Star Wars’ movie as being just as ambitious as bringing Superman back into the modern cinematic conversation. Not only by himself, but for the purposes of ushering in a new universe of superheroes that included some of the most recognisable comic book characters across the world. While the movie had it’s problems, I nevertheless maintained that there was enough groundwork laid to give me hope for where this story could go, and that the mistakes made weren’t so grave that they couldn’t be rectified, with a little attention to audience feedback.
Oh what precious innocence hath left me today.
For starters, I’ll make this review brief. Odds are you’re already planning to see the movie called, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (henceforth known as BvS) if for nothing else than to get a glimpse of the titular battle between these two huge counterparts. This review isn’t going to stop you and neither should it, your opinion is just as good as any. So this piece of writing isn’t for you, it’s for me. Therapy is expensive and this is next best way to express my trauma.
Following the events of ‘Man of Steel’, BvS imagines a world where the events at the end of that film spark the philosophical discussion of Superman’s role as a protector. In what I believe is in no doubt a reaction to the reaction of that film, the destruction of Metropolis is depicted as a 9/11 status event. One that completely changes the global conversation. As Clark Kent struggles with his need to do good and the world’s perception of him, Bruce Wayne and his uber paranoid self, plots the demise of Superman, as he doesn’t trust anyone with all that raw, skyscraper destroying power.
That’s just a morsel of the stuff going on in ‘BvS’. There’s also the subplots of Lois Lane’s globetrotting journalism, Clark Kent’s newspaper crusade against a now veteran Batman’s brutal methodology (Batman brands criminals with a red hot batarang so that they’ll be killed in prison), Wonder Woman’s attempt to keep her history a secret, Lex Luthor’s confusing hate for Superman, and of course, the inclusion of scenes solely for the sake of establishing a wider cinematic universe. If you’re sitting thinking to yourself, “Wow it’s impressive for a movie to take that much on and still be a coherent comprehensible film with an enjoyable narrative” you’d be dead wrong.
The first act of BvS is so painfully rushed. Scenes occur with a sort of cliffhanger ending with lines and character decisions that only confuse rather than entertain. Those scenes are followed by completely different scenes that pretty much follow the same formula. It feels as though either the script was fundamentally flawed or the editor fell asleep and forgot where scenes were supposed to go. Either way, it was not a pleasant viewing experience for much of the movie.
That being said, plot has never interested me as much as characters. I don’t really care about the how of a movie, I care about the why. This is what was the most frustrating thing about this movie, and was mostly my problem with ‘Man of Steel’. I didn’t understand what the motivations were behind these characters. Time and time again the movie will have a line that I think was supposed to be poignant, setting up the characters to make some sort of decision that will have an effect on their arc. Fine. Great. That’s how a movie works. The thing it doesn’t get is the next step, which is making that decision, so that in the final act I feel as though I understand what these characters are about and I’m invested in their plight.
The final act of this movie is a good one, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it has really good superhero action. On the face of it. Underneath there’s no substance to anything that happens because the characters don’t really exist. They sure look like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but they aren’t. I’m not even talking as someone who reads comics. The characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe take liberties with their source material all the time, and I have literally zero problems with characters being changed for their adaptations, in fact, I prefer it (I actually like the neck thing from Man of Steel), but these characters in BvS aren’t even established in this movie.
The movie tries to have it both ways. It tries to skate by on the fact that you know these characters from the thing the movie is based on. You know the comics, you know the movies, tv shows, lunch boxes, all that stuff, so it should be easy for you to fill in the blanks. The problem is it also tries to change the characters so much, that what you’re left with is the film equivalent to a goddamn mad lib.
Not to mention, the dialogue in this movie was abominable. You know how in Christopher Nolan Batman movies, and even in the Captain America films, characters will have dialogue about what it means to be a superhero, and it comes across as really powerful. This movie tries for that and it fails almost every time. Everything in the movie feels empty, and when it tried to get me to rally behind it, I was wondering when we got to this point. When did we cross over from set up to pay off, because the lines were pretty damn blurry.
I don’t want to keep dogging on the movie since I guess I liked a few things in it. Like I said the action is good if you don’t think about why it’s happening, and the interaction between Ben Affleck’s Batman and Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is a high point in the movie. Affleck actually impresses as Batman, if his character made any sense in the movie. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was maybe 60% entertaining, 40% annoying. Yeah that’s pretty much it.
There’s a line in this movie where Clark Kent is in protest over the kind of newspaper the Daily Planet has become, (a plot that goes nowhere), and thinks that the paper should mean something. Laurence Fishburne’s disgruntled Perry White gives him a response akin to the world is different than it was in 1938 and maybe then Clark would have a leg to stand on. 1938 is the year Superman first appeared. I have no doubt this was a jab and people who had a difficulty swallowing the new Superman created in ‘Man of Steel’ but… What? How does this make sense? The filmmakers are yelling at their own Superman for…wanting to be like the old Superman? Why does…What? Anyway.
That’s pretty much how I felt for most of this movie. Like I said, see it or don’t. I don’t really care. I probably hate movies now. Why even bother. Thanks for reading.
Rating: Read A Book